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Ryan Zimmerman is the best player of the 2017 MLB season so far and its not even close

Ryan Zimmerman is the best player of the 2017 MLB season so far and its not even close

BY TYLER BYRUM, @theTylerByrum

As a first-round draft pick for the Washington Nationals back in 2005, there has always been high expectations for infielder Ryan Zimmerman. Thirteen seasons later, he is finally vaulting into one of the most dangerous players in the league at 32 years of age. 

Although the Nationals are merely a fifth of the way through an exhausting 162 game schedule (played 31 games as of Sunday night), Zimmerman is dominating the majors and second place is nowhere to be seen. Here is a list of the statistical categories that Zimmerman leads (followed by second place):

  • Hits: 47 (2nd- 43)
  • Home runs: 13 (tied with Aaron Judge)
  • RBIs: 34 (2nd- 28)
  • Batting Average: .435 (2nd- .377)
  • Slugging Percentage: .907 (2nd- .772)
  • On-base percentage plus slugging (OPS): 1.382 (2nd- 1.227)

In addition, the first baseman is second in doubles (12), tied for third in runs (28), and trails only Bryce Harper in on-base percentage (.475). The only players that are on the same level of the 13-year veteran is none other than his teammate, Harper. Playing in two fewer games than Zimmerman, Harper is in the top-10 in all those categories as well. 

It is without a doubt the 32-year-old is seeing the ball better than he has in years. Already, he is in mid-season form and should be a lock to make his second career All-Star game. He has helped carry Washington to an NL best 21-10 record, missing only one game. 

Prior to this season, Zimmerman was in a steady decline and was facing numerous injury issues. The 2009 All-Star had missed a large chunk of the 2014-16 seasons. In the three-year span, he only played in 55 percent of the regular season games and was passed around from third, to left field, and eventually placed at first.

Last season in 115 games, he had one of his worst performances of his career. As a starting first-baseman, he had career-lows in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Take away his first season (20 games) and 2014 (61 games) and those career-lows grows to include doubles, RBIs, and total bases. 

Back in 2006, he was the runner-up in the Rookie of the Year voting to Hanley Ramirez and was named a Silver Slugger in 2009 and 2010. 

Now, it's still early in the 2017 season and it would be ridiculous to expect Zimmerman to keep up this pace as the season goes on. However, he is the early contender for NL MVP and, barring any setbacks, should be able to hold on to consistent numbers throughout the year.

One thing that Nationals fans can sure hang their hat on though, is that the former first round pick is back on track in being one of the best players in not only the National League, but the majors as well. 

MORE NATS: Bullpen blows another late-game lead

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Nats prospect update: Three minor-leaguers sent to Kansas City for Kelvin Herrera

Nats prospect update: Three minor-leaguers sent to Kansas City for Kelvin Herrera

The biggest story in Nationals prospects this week is the three Washington lost to the Royals in return for closer Kelvin Herrera. Here’s a look at what the Nationals gave up to add more depth to the bullpen.

Kelvin Gutierrez, AA 3B

The infielder, formerly on the Nationals’ 40-man roster, has posted a .285/.344/.388 line through his six-season minor league tenure. One of his greatest strengths is his speed, with 55 career stolen bases and 14 extra-base hits this season. His other notable tool is his powerful arm strength, which may help explain his transition from shortstop to the hot corner.

Blake Perkins, High A OF

The Nationals chose outfielder Blake Perkins in the second round of the 2015 draft. He has quite a bit of room to improve at the plate, batting .234/.344/.290 this season in Hagerstown. However, what he lacks offensively, he makes up for in the outfield. According to Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser, Perkins has “plus speed, mature instincts, excellent routes and an above-average arm.”

Yohanse Morel, RHP

The biggest wild card of the group, Morel is a 17-year-old outfielder-turned-pitcher from the Dominican Republic. His fastball reaches 95 mph and he certainly has huge potential for growth. He has not yet pitched in the U.S. since making his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League in early June.

So, what did the Nationals gain?

Right-handed closer Kelvin Herrera is a two-time All-Star who is currently in the midst of a stellar season. In his Nats debut, he needed just six pitches to shut down the Orioles in the eight. The team is reportedly (and understandably) thrilled to have Herrera joining the roster. Adam Eaton said, "I'm so happy he's here and he's on my team and I don't have to face him anytime in the near future."

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Orioles weather long rain delay in 3-0 win over Nationals

Orioles weather long rain delay in 3-0 win over Nationals

WASHINGTON -- The rain was heavy and relentless. As the puddles grew deeper on the tarp at Nationals Park, the Baltimore Orioles were left to wonder if their bid for a rare road victory would be thwarted by, of all things, the weather.

During a season in which very little has worked in their favor, the Orioles withstood a long rain delay to beat the Washington Nationals 3-0 Wednesday night.

Baltimore led 2-0 after four innings when play was stopped. After a wait of 2 hours, 43 minutes, the game resumed with a few hundred fans from the announced crowd of 32,153 sprinkled around the lower seating bowl.

Mark Trumbo homered for Baltimore, and Andrew Cashner and four relievers combined on a five-hitter in a game that ended long after midnight.

"It was nice," Trumbo said. "I'm glad that we actually kept the game going. Had we not been able to, it might have been a wash. But it ended up being pretty big for us."

Baltimore ended a six-game losing streak to Washington that began last May, won for only the fourth time in 20 games and improved the majors' worst road record to 10-28.

This one was worth the wait.

"It's never easy, especially when you get over the hour mark, two-hour mark," Trumbo said. "Then you have to restart. It's almost two games in one, so, great job by our guys tonight."

The Nationals managed only two hits following the delay, both in the ninth inning.

"It happens. You can't do anything about the rain," manager Dave Martinez said. "You've got to come out and get yourself ready to play. I'm not going to make any excuses."

The rain delay cut short a solid pitching performance by Cashner, who allowed three hits and no walks over four innings in his return from an 11-day stay on the disabled list with back spasms.

Miguel Castro (2-2) followed with two hitless innings, Darren O'Day pitched a perfect seventh and Zach Britton got four outs.

Brad Brach allowed the Nationals to load the bases with two outs in the ninth before striking out Mark Reynolds .

Trumbo hit a two-run homer in the second inning off Gio Gonzalez (6-4), and for a while it appeared the drive would be washed out by the rain.

"One pitch. That was the whole game," Gonzalez lamented. "That was it."

Indeed, it all ended well for the Orioles, who added a run in the sixth when Adam Jones doubled off Shawn Kelley and scored on a sacrifice fly by Danny Valencia .